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Scrapping SARS or reforming the police?

For the past one week, protesters have occupied many states to demonstrate the need to scrap or ban the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS). SARS, like many other units of the  police was created to combat the menace of armed robbery, kidnapping and other crimes in the country. The special unit when it came on board was able to foil many cases of armed robberies, kidnapping and arrested culprits.

The fear of SARS is the beginning of the wisdom by the men of under world. It is however sad to note that while SARS enjoys public support at the beginning, its action in recent times which border on human right abuses, extortion and extra-judicial killing of ordinary Nigerians have left so much to be desired.

Many Nigerians include the VIPs have suffered one form of humiliation or the other from the hands of SARS. The SARS brutality against the helpless victims motivated or ignited the current nationwide campaign to end it.

Let truth be told, SARS brutality which many Nigerians kick against is just tips of the iceberg on the Nigeria police force. The Nigerian police force which has continued to undergo several reforms to make it effective and carry its constitutional duties has fallen short of international standard.

The institution is synonym of corruption and human rights abuses. It is really saddening that Nigerian police which called itself  a friend to Nigerians acted contrary to its words. Beyond the SARS unmasked dirtiness, the force has become a fiefdom of repented criminals. I think the Nigeria Police Force’s rot has reached  the pinnacle due to its faulty recruitment process. People of questionable characters are often recruited and filled the rank and file of its officers. No wonder,some bad police officers are caught in robbery or conniving with armed robbers to dispossess people of their belongings.

The #EndSARS campaign should serve as a wakeup call for the constituted authorities that, Nigerian police force needs urgent overhauling. The institution which is constitutionally mandated to provide internal securities has underperformed. The country is under policed due to the increase of population without corresponding increase in number of officers.

Finally, it seemed the government has bowed to pressure and scrapped SARS and replaced it with the Special Weapons and Tactics Team (SWAT). Will the new unit act differently from the hitherto notorious SARS that became thorn in the flesh of many Nigerians?  The Government should go beyond change of nomenclature and address the root causes of Nigeria police’s poor performances. Nigeria police force needs pragmatic and urgent reforms through transparent recruitment of personnel, provision of adequate security gadgets and good working environment. Unless these serious issues are fully addressed, Nigerians should expect more human right abuses and violation.

Ibrahim Mustapha Pambegua writes from Kaduna State